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Rio Grande. A Berkshire Hathaway Company.
A Berkshire Hathaway Company.
December 2010

Here in Tech Support some of the most interesting, fun, and challenging parts of our job is to evaluate and review new tools and equipment. But we don’t just review tools, we’re also constantly searching for new and innovative techniques that we can share with fellow jewelers. This past year we had the pleasure of testing dozens of new items and taking classes that expanded our jewelry universe. Between the testing and classes, a few tools and techniques struck us as being so cool that we want to sing about them from the mountaintop…

The hobo nickel, a unique American folk-art form, gets its name from Depression-era hobos, who used a pocket knife to alter the image on Indian-head nickels. Often the Indian was altered to depict a bearded hobo wearing a derby, but religious and political figures, animals, celebrities, and so on, were also favorite subjects. These miniature art works were often traded for food or lodging…

We were thrilled when Phil Poirier bought Bonny Doon Engineering in 2006, not only because his career as both a jeweler and a tool-maker made him the perfect person to take over Bonny Doon, but also because his workshop is in Taos, New Mexico, just a few hours north of us. We’ve made a habit of dropping in on his facility every once in awhile, and we try to bring a video camera with us, when we go.

This past August, as my birthday crept closer and closer, I found that I just couldn’t make up my mind. I didn’t NEED anything new, but I really WANTED something new. Shall I get a new disc cutter? There’s a design stamp set that I’ve been eyeing for a while …and then there’s that kiln that I can’t stop thinking about…

Yesterday’s sunrise here in Albuquerque blew our socks off! So much, in fact, that several Rio Grande associates were moved to take pictures of the magnificent show and share them with all of us at the company.

Our guest contributor this week is Mike Ross. Mike has been the safety coach at Rio Grande for many years and, in his free time, he leads an enviable life of excitement and adventure. Each weekend, he and his wife embark upon adventures that take full advantage of the natural beauty and wonder of New Mexico. Most Mondays, he sends an email to all of us at Rio in which he describes his adventures and shares his breathtaking pictures.

Eva Martin is a storyteller. But rather than using words on a page, she embeds them in her jewelry designs.

She gets to know her clients very well, through emails and conversations. And she gets to the heart of their stories to design pieces that will come to life with such deliberate meaning. “I find this storytelling one of the most exciting and satisfying parts my job,” she says…

What’s happening is that most of the low-quality, inexpensive rubies now being sold in the market are not just “treated rubies” but something altogether different–a mixture of low-quality corundum infused with lead-glass. The amount of lead-glass present in the stones now in the marketplace often exceeds 25% and, in many cases represents 40% or more of the entire stone!

Delrin is a material that’s hard enough for heavy forming, but also has just a tiny amount of give, which makes it less likely to crack than other hard plastics like PVC.
Last year I asked Mark and Sessin from our Tech team to recommend some new Delrin metalsmithing products for us to pursue, based on what they were hearing on the phone from our customers. They brought in a collection of their favorite homemade wooden swage blocks and said, “Make this in Delrin.”…

“BAM!” is what Emeril the chef says on his cooking show. And “BAM!” is what I felt when I saw the price of silver top the $30 mark on Monday. Lately, listening to the news has seemed surreal. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, has been quoted about “fears of deflation”. Yet here is $30 silver, where just a couple months ago it was half that price. What is a jeweler supposed to do?

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